While the Iowa political world was abuzz late last week about former Lt. Governor Patty Judge jumping into the race to unseat Senator Chuck Grassley, the three other Democrats in the race reminded people that they’ve been running for quite some time too.
State Senator Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids released a new list of endorsers on Monday to emphasize that the Democratic primary will be a closely contested one. 30 former legislators were on Hogg’s list of new endorsements, including Jack Kibbie, Polly Bukta, Jack Hatch, Staci Appel and Tyler Olson. Hogg already had the backing of 63 of the 68 Democratic lawmakers at the Statehouse. Both Mike Gronstal and Pam Jochum stuck with Hogg when asked last week about Judge’s entrance.
“I think Democratic primary-goers are going to have to look very closely at this race,” Hogg told Starting Line, saying Judge entering the race is simply a sign that more and more people are realizing that Grassley is vulnerable. “Which I’ve thought all along because Congress is not functioning. Iowans know Congress is not functioning. Justice Scalia’s seat is just the latest and probably most important example of Congress not functioning.”
But Hogg pointed out that he’s been in this race since last Fall, and has been campaigning all over the state before and since.
“It’s not a matter for me that it’s an opportunity that’s become available,” Hogg said. “I think we need a candidate who can work really hard at getting grassroots enthusiasm across our state. That was something that was lacking in 2010, the last time Lt. Governor Judge was on the ballot, and it was something lacking in 2014. I think I’m the best candidate for that.”
A number of policy fault lines are likely to develop in a primary race where Hogg and Judge are expected to be the top contenders. Chief among them is the environment. Hogg has been one of Iowa’s leading voices on environmental concerns over the years, while Judge has angered many progressive activists by siding with the agricultural industry’s interests on issues with livestock operations and water quality.
“I’ve got strong support from people who care about the environment, clean energy jobs and clean water,” Hogg said. “I think Iowans want a champion for climate action, they want a champion for clean water in the U.S. Senate.”
There’s also the matter of organized labor, always a key player in Democratic primaries. In that instance, Judge’s connection to former Governor Chet Culver could hurt her just as much in the primary as in the general.
“I also have strong support from labor,” Hogg asserted. “I have a 99% lifetime voting record for labor, and I was not involved in the veto of the biggest expansion of workers’ rights that the Iowa Legislature had passed in 40 years.”
Having a candidate that Democrats can get excited about is also a major concern for those in the party disappointed in lackluster candidates in recent elections that failed to inspire excitement among the base.
“I think the full spectrum of the Democratic Party can be enthused about my campaign,” Hogg said, noting he had over 25 people show up in Estherville this past Saturday morning to see him. “I’ve put a premium on spending my time in Iowa. I haven’t been spending my time in Washington, D.C. asking people there for their support. I’ve been asking Iowans for their support.”
Hogg pointed out that he collected over 13,000 signatures for his petitions to appear on the ballot. Judge will have to scramble in the next two weeks to get her papers done in the many number of counties across the state needed.
“Iowans want to see a campaign that uplifts our democracy, and I’ve won five elections in a row, I didn’t lose my last election,” Hogg said in a contrast with Judge’s defeat in 2010 with Culver. “I’ve replaced Republicans twice. In every one of those elections I’ve run a campaign that uplifts our democracy and inspired people to vote for me, rather than run a bunch of negative ads that turned people off.”
The field of four Democrats have a little under three months before the June 7 primary. With many activists and elected officials sticking with Hogg for the time being, the race could remain much closer than what some national consultants likely thought when Judge was recruited to run.
by Pat Rynard